For the Sake of Sanity



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Stephanie Joy Tisdale {Philadelphia, Pennsylvania}

Have you ever had rooibos tea? It's also called red bush and it's from Southern Africa. It is one of those special experiences and everytime I drink rooibos tea, I am transported to a special place. It could be a reminder of my trip to South Africa, one of the cradles of civilization, and the rooibos tea we drank every day on our three-week trip. I doubt this is the case though, simply because of all my travels abroad, I can't say that I've ever had such a deep connection to a regional food in this way. So yes, I think it is the rooibos itself that is magical. Surely, taste is a powerful sense. I submit to it.

And so it is with rooibos by my side that I write to you, for life is short and infinite. My sanity depends on it.

Lately, I've come to realize the layers of cliche experiences that come along with life i.e. living on earth as human beings in 2012. Particularly in America, living is marketed to us as something we do only when the excess time presents itself. Oftentimes, excess time is associated with excess money, and living becomes less and less about human beings and more about privilege. Leisure, even. For most of us who work some variation of a 9-5, our lives become dedicated to work and the living part exists only in the margins. Only if we have time will we investigate the creations, pray, and commune with the Creator. Otherwise? Let the filler activities and the nonsense begin! The money, the status, the centering ourselves around the accumulation of things as opposed to clearing time and physical space to actually live.

What would it mean to truly greet the universe, to tap into the existing consciousness accumulated over humanity's time on earth, and to acknowledge the supreme righteousness of our Ancestors. How much time would it take?

This is usually the point where the arguing begins. "So, you're saying we should all be poor?"

Oh, sweet distraction. Money.

But of course not. Then again, what are we doing here on earth anyway? How did so much of our existence get lost in the concept of buying things, accumulating things, working to secure things, giving our children things. More than this, what are the things we seem to center ourselves around? What is the true value? Will we be content with how much time we spend working towards the purchase of things, many of which we don't really need anyway? In other words, when it is all said and done how will we atone for our time on earth? How will we justify the time we spend on everything but life and living.

The accumulated knowledge of Kemet, the Kongo, and their children throughout the continent of Africa teaches us that our existence is really about being in tune with the Creator and the creations. Our enslavers have marketed to us the notion that the ideas of our Ancestors lack civility, that our inherited excellence is somehow backwards. We become distracted with imitating what we think the descendants of our slave masters are doing. Secretly, well actually in plain view, they tap into every aspect of our source(s). They live by yoga, they eat foods indigenous to every space colonized by Europe, they meditate. They study our languages, spend months and years in the rural at the feet of our high scientists. And we are distracted. We imitate and mock them on the road to our extinction.

We miss our lives, and we don't even know it.

There is definitely an innate manifestation of our existence that develops our humanity. There are rites of passage that accompany youth, womanhood, manhood, and elderhood. With this said, there is a part of the development and the innate longing that cannot be addressed if these rites of passage don't take place. Rites of passage aren't universal, but elevation of mind and spirit, as well as initiation into forms and ways of being can be found in one way or another where we find ourselves. There are also many correlations between rites of passage, as diversely practiced as they can be, and awareness of the Creator and the Creations. Part deliberate intention, part coincidence, but all the way profound.

And so, there is a void, a space where these experiences would have been. And we are like twins, separated at birth: we know something is imbalanced. Parts of us are missing and we can't help but acknowledge that "something belongs here" and it is not here.

Of course it is even more complicated because on top of missing out on very strategic aspects of existence which would ultimately do us good, we succumb to the marketing of things as a means of filling our life's time. Until disruption of our routine occurs: the loss of a job, a random injury, perhaps. or something else that induces stillness.

For me it began with being unemployed and running out of cash. It was a short time but it forced me into a space where all I could do was be still. In my stillness I began to notice things that I'd never noticed before. My nature walks became less of a means to an end and graduated to a joyous necessity. And then the river, I couldn't just look at it any more, I had to get in it. I became interested in the way the bark of the tree actually felt and I began to find refuge in the wilderness.

Not long after, my Mother transitioned into the spiritual realm. Her death signified a new path for me, a new way of being that I can't imagine being without. My Mother was also my daughter in that I spent a lot of time nurturing her, loving her and caring for her emotionally and spiritually. She confided in my Sister and I, we were her friends and she trusted us with so much of herself. She was the closest human being to me and I never imagined her passing the way she did, with cancer as the catalyst. Suddenly, she slipped from my grasp and during this time my understanding of life expanded immensely.

I learned that we really are spirits. Our bodies are just the shells that we use for the time we are here. As my Mother's illness progressed rapidly, I saw how much her feelings affected her physical body. I'd heard the idea expressed before from many holistic practitioners but I actually saw it with my own two eyes.

I realized that every deep bond in our lives is a mating of the souls. My Mother was my first soul mate. The first person made for me, whose love was so intrinsic and innate that the thought of life without her seemed truly impossible. Parts of me are missing and there is no one or thing that can replace them. They are simply gone.

Even still, our souls constantly connect with family, friends and ideally our significant other. The Creator saw fit to start me off with a soul mate, and I do not know the words that could ever express the level of gratitude I have for such a privilege. I do know that it is rare though.

I realized that without my Mother, I was in great need of live, tangible inspiration. My Mother gave me a reason to live. We were symbiotic and so her development (even as my elder) required my attention. I gave it first out of necessity but later out of love's gravitational pull. Without her presence, I was lost as to what to live for. My big sister is grounded and sufficient, she didn't need me. I figured a mate could possibly inspire my longevity, as could children. I had neither.

Very different from jobs, tasks, to-do-lists and all other things that take and never give back, relationships and parenthood are exhausting but at least there is something to "show" for it. One has the ability to say they are the "wife" of so-and-so or the "mother" of such-and-such and all of a sudden at least SOME sort of reciprocal value is inserted. As opposed to the lifeless paper acknowledgement (B.A., M.A., PhD) there is a living, breathing tangible reflection of the time invested: some bodies who are "needing" you.

At this time my biggest challenge seemed to be: What do I live for now? Who will miss me, to whom am I of value? Who can love me unconditionally, like my Mom did?

Everyone comes with conditions (knowingly or unknowingly) and the two people who could never truly rid of me--my parents--were not within my reach: one on the side of the living, the other alive but distant. While I am grateful for friends who love me, especially my closer brothers and sisters, it is not the same thing as the passionate support that could potentially come from a mate or the incessant needing that comes from a child. There is space where these things belong. My right, perhaps.

I also realized that most of what inspired me was before me or in the future. All of it was invisible though, and based in what I'd learned from history and also what I believed about the future. But I couldn't see or touch any of it. It was not of the living and so there were times that I felt isolated and alone, so many of my companions living in books, pictures, and music. So much me wrapped up in fancy notions of future maybes.

Here I was in this world, where I was "living" and yet it all felt so cliche. It lacked the substance of the before and the commitment of the after. It was just here, lame and self-indulging. Present but disengaged.

My Mother's death was a catalyst, in many ways, for my rebirth. She birthed me as an infant and rebirthed me as an adult. She initiated my physical existence and saved me from it too.

She taught me that our dreams on earth, what we want for ourselves are important. And yet, we cannot allow things or the lack thereof influence how we experience life. In her youth, my Mother was invincible. Untouchable and otherworldly. She left this world just as extraordinary but the weight of the marketing took a toll on her being. She began to question herself much more, juxtaposing her knowledge and talent with what she had (or didn't). She began to question her worth and compare herself with unrealistic concepts of wealth and success.

And yet, she was so amazing, so full of extraordinary ideas, deep spiritual practices and an unparallelled sense of what it means to rear human beings. She was made for motherhood, it was one of her most extraordinary talents but the value of her craft was underestimated in our world. At some point she began to underestimate herself, looking for the external things to verify her existence. When in reality, so much of it was grounded in the intangible sciences, the transfer of energies that last many lifetimes. Forever. Watching my other half, the other part of my soul fight against modernity's crashing waves, flinging her arms and gasping for air for many years, the cancer emerged as a battle scar. A reflection of the damages done to her soul.

I learned that this world built by oppression will kill you if you let it. If you don't detach yourself from its pull, if you refuse to walk away from it, it will leave you down to your marrow.

I am not suggesting a utopia in the wilderness either. I am advocating for what is not this.
Thankfully, we have thousands of years' worth of concrete data to support our journey. We have ancient Ancestors who left clear messages for our renewal. We have recent Ancestors who confirmed their accuracy. We can do better. We deserve better. Our time is precious. Every moment can be a holy endeavor or it can be limbo as we hustle for more lifeless things.

Something tells me that those of us who build for a better world for all have to remember that we exist almost in a macrocosm of reality. Drenched in spiritual awakening, deeply invested in universal laws and highly committed to the everlasting. A unique calling, among other things. And challenging.

Mom passed in December 2011. Nowadays I concentrate on the idea that there are things to which I can contribute that I can actually see and touch.

These things--institutions, relationships, ideas--are before, here, and after in so many ways it ain't even funny. I feel like maybe God requires me to see and acknowledge that? That having things, buying things, can never compare to the depth of building things. Lasting, infinite things some of which cannot be seen with two eyes alone.

I am grateful that so many of the things I involve myself in--as an educator, in my spirituality, with my music and my involvement with The Liberator--allow me to feel that I am indeed working for things I cannot see today. They are invisible and sometimes I feel crazy for believing in their existence.

Everything around me says otherwise and the immediate gratifications of today seduce my attention at times, appearing to have more value than the sacrifices made for the earthly hereafter. My children's great grand children and their offspring. Sometimes the void that is felt on this road, especially when we are walking alone, can be debilitating. It can completely destabilize us if we are not careful. As we go against the grain and fight distractions, we also struggle against the values that some of the people around us subscribe to, the values that question our moves and disregard our endeavors. The values that cause self-loathing behaviors, the ones that enhance our self-inflicted turmoil, even.

And yet, when we turn our face in the direction of the Creator, when we decide to experience the Creations, we come to realize what life is all about. We come to experience the whisper of the breeze, the radiance of sunrise and sunset. We tap into the living energy of living things and our lives become the better for it. We are reborn and renewed. Our Ancestors seem less distant and spirits move more fluidly around us. And it costs us nothing.

The things we have, or don't, inch backward to their rightful space. They are no longer a priority. The time we would spend earning enough to accumulate the things we are taught we need is now spent experiencing the life we were born to live.

And rooibos tastes so good that we can bask in the essence of its flavor having spent merely 25 cents per tea bag. In fact, the pricelessness of sipping the red bush tea becomes something that we want to share with others. We laugh at the thought of needing lots of money to be happy because we know that in our future world, money will be a distant memory. For now we compromise, still we spend very little. For time is our most valuable possession. And infinity our final destination. -END-

Tisdale, S. J. (2012). For the Sake of Sanity. The Last Generation Of Black People. New York: The Liberator Magazine.

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